Great customer service and a great customer experience is the foundation to any business. It does not matter whether you are in the frontline serving customers or not. Any member of a team is always either serving the customer directly or serving someone who is serving the customer. The Ritz-Carlton company motto perfectly sums this up “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” In other words, there is no difference between the real guest coming from outside and buying products and services and an internal guest - a fellow team member. Offering a level of service that wow’s the customer has to come from every corner and every level of the company. It is like an orchestra, everyone has to play their part, in time, to the correct standard to present a well-orchestrated piece of music that creates maximum enjoyment for each and every audience member. When the orchestra is playing well customers want more of the same and will bring friends along with them, thus organically growing your business.
It is normal and natural that customers will be annoyed when a product or service does not meet their expectations. However, the way it is handled will either build loyalty to the brand and company, or completely destroy that relationship, losing that customer and potentially several more depending on who they tell. In today’s world in most situations the customer has a choice, if they do not get what they are seeking in the holistic sense with you, they will go elsewhere.
Customers who love your company, not because necessarily the product is the very best, but because your personnel know the customer and make them feel individual and welcome in each and every interaction, irrelevant of who serves them. Customers who receive this level of service will always be loyal, giving you whatever business they can within their remit. Not only that, if something slips in the product, when the service is consistently exceptional, and the mistake addressed in the same manner, they will in most cases overlook the product issues and give a second chance to allow you to get it right. This is the foundation to a strong and loyal customer base.
Just as important, personnel who enjoy working with customers get so much more with each interaction, which increases their level of job satisfaction ultimately leading to an inspired happy and joyful workforce who want to be at work and who in turn share this joy with everyone else in their lives, including your customers.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor customer experience. Since the onset of Corona virus, sadly these experiences are increasing, individual staff members very often hiding behind the phrase “Because of Covid we cannot do……….” it is incredible what the onset of Covid has enabled companies to get away with? I have heard the excuses of “I can’t send a rescue truck, (to collect a car that has broken down), because of Covid”, “Because of Covid chicken is off the menu.” In my local supermarket when asking for the customary coffee, the response was “We have not been serving coffee since Covid.” Interesting that I can buy a coffee in Costa, Starbucks, and the many other coffee shops and wagons, but coffee in the supermarket, which by the way, I serve myself by putting a cup under the machine and pressing the button, cannot be supplied because of Covid? Previously a member of the team would clean the machine, therefore there is no extra manning requirement here!
Do these companies, honestly think that their customers are so misinformed as to accept these and many other excuses used to hide behind and cover up the real issue of either staff shortages, poor training, lack of leadership or using Covid as an excuse to reduce manning levels? Surely now, more than ever is the time to make customer service a priority?
What are some things you can put in place to give the customer a great experience?
The following 5 things are for me the foundation to creating a great customer experience over and over for each and every customer that builds a loyal customer base which in turn results in a happier, healthier workforce who share a willingness to do a good job for you, all of which translates into decreased absenteeism and increased profitability:
Be genuine with all your customers
Of course, we all want to front our company in a positive and successful light. However, that does not stop every employee being genuine and showing the unique person that they are and using those qualities to serve customers, intuitively linking with customer feelings and emotions and responding in an appropriate manner. Having service standards is of course important, but only to the point that they do not create robots. As far as I am aware, no one wants to be served by a robot? Admit mistakes, accept them, apologise genuinely and find the best solution to correct the situation.
Work with and through your personnel
Train all team members about the importance of the customer, both internal and external, and give them the autonomy to be individual and shine in each and every customer interaction, going that extra mile not because they were told to, but because they want to. Provide the parameters to empower them to take things into their own hands to support their customers. When they do go that extra mile, support them and give praise and recognition. Share each example as an inspiration and form of encouragement for other team members.
My logistics manager, without any direction from me, used to call the customers randomly simply to say “Hello, and ask how they are.” I had no idea about this until one day one of my customers told me how much they enjoy the calls from Andre. On enquiring what the calls were about I was informed “Oh, just about saying hello!” I grew several inches from the pride that I felt at that moment.
Live and share the company values
Ensure that each and every team member understands how to apply company values in their day-to-day life so that the values live, and there is no disconnect between what the company publishes and what is actually adopted in practice. Ask employees to share what these values mean for them as well as giving examples of how they might apply them through their work. Encourage them to do just that to make the words come to life and have meaning and consistency for internal and external customers alike.
Employees who feel a part of and are able to align their own values with the company are more self-confident, feel connected to the overall team, and more comfortable in taking steps that perhaps before they would not have done without this knowledge.
Find your team members doing something well
It is human nature to be quick to see the negative, what has not been done, what was done poorly, being late, missing deadlines, shoddy work and so on. Noticing the small things as well as the large things done well and giving the recognition each and every person in your team deserves, goes a very long way to building a positive, loyal team and strong company culture. In my book, there is no such thing as a bad employee, only bad management!
Lead by example and “Walk your Talk”
Get out there on the front line and be with your personnel. Get feedback from your them on what is working well, what is not and how they think it can be improved. Where suggestions are reasonable, act on them and make it known to other team members whose idea it was and why it is being implemented. For suggestions not implemented give an explanation so that the person does not think you are simply paying “lip-service” or doing a tick-box exercise in simply asking the question, with no intention of doing anything about the response. Talk to your customers, showing every employee that the customer is important and that you are not afraid to communicate with them and to hear what they have to say, whether good or bad.
In 30 odd years of working with customers in restaurants, hotels, my own companies and as a trainer of customer service, of course there are many other things that I can add to this list, but starting here will create a very strong foundation. In the words of Tony Hsieh now retired CEO of Zappos, "Customer service shouldn't just be a department, it should be the entire company."
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